Unlike the draft, free agency in the NFL never really ends. Once the league year starts, teams are able to sign players that are not under contract all the way to the end of the season. But most of the major news comes in the first few weeks of free agency, and for the Dallas Cowboys, there have been three outside free agents signed, Cedric Thornton, Alfred Morris, and Benson Mayowa. They also have re-signed several of their own free agents. Although they still are looking for other help, notably at cornerback and backup quarterback, most of the major signings are done. We have talked about how they have done here at BTB in various articles, but I wanted to get some idea of how the staff feels about things so far. I asked my fellow front page writers how they saw things, and here are the answers to four questions I raised with them.
1. If money had been no object, what one free agent this year would you have liked to sign for the Cowboys, and why?
Dawn Macelli: I am torn on this. One side of me would love to see Lamar Miller run behind the offensive line that the Dallas Cowboys have built. I suspect that the combination of the two could combine to insure that Romo and Witten do not waltz off into retirement without an opportunity to play for a ring. On the other hand, defense wins championships and shut down defenses build dynasties. I would like to have Eric Weddle on the roster for a couple seasons, not so much for his talents, but to serve as a mentor for Byron Jones. That kid is like a sponge and Weddle has been there and done that. Imagine what a boost he could give the young safety,
Danny Phantom: Olivier Vernon. A young DE who is primed for action would be the best addition to this team. If money was no object, I would have paid him almost as much as the Giants did.
One Cool Customer: I never wanted anything to do with all the high-priced running backs that were being touted left and right. I had my eyes set a little on Miami DE Derrick Shelby, but the Cowboys didn't even show a hint of interest. He signed in Atlanta for 4 years, $18 million. Oh well.
Jim Scott: Bruce Irvin. I liked the player coming out of college and think he would be better as a pure 4-3 DE than as an OLB/Hybrid the way Seattle played him. I think he would've been a nice upgrade to our pass rush and helped the D-line weather the loss of Gregory for four games.
Michael Sisemore: I would have liked to have had Olivier Vernon, but nowhere near that price tag. With all the numbers against rookie pass rushers and the predicament that they seem to be in, Vernon could have been a solid piece. However, I'm not ever going to pay $80+ million for 7 sacks.
Me: I have to take Lamar Miller. here. Young, and he would have thrived behind Dallas' O-line. Morris is a good second choice, but Miller could have been special with the Cowboys.
2. Of the free agents Dallas signed so far, including their own, which one is the best signing, and which one would you say is the least important?
Dawn Macelli: Seeing what Cedric Thornton can do in Marinelli's defense gets me excited for football to begin. I do not expect that he will come in and set the world on fire, but I do see him becoming a key piece of the puzzle. My opinion is that working with the rushman whisperer will be good for Thornton's career development, and from everything I have heard, Cedric fully believes that he is in a place where he will get an opportunity to help make good things happen.
Danny Phantom: Best signing: Rolando McClain. He's better than many realize. There are still things that he needs to work on to be a more consistent player, but he is very smart at the game of football and and the athleticism and toughness to be so much more. Least important: Josh Thomas. He seems like a JAG to be a place holder for when a real corner is brought on.
OCC: Rolando McClain. I understand that McClain is just one strike away from a 10-game ban, but when he's on the field and on top of his game, he changes the face of the defense.
Jim Scott: I like the Thornton signing. He's a strong player that really bolsters the interior at it's weakest spot. Plus his nickname is "Swamp Thing".
Michael Sisemore: I'm excited about Cedric Thornton, but I'll go with Rolando McClain. He seemed to play more consistently last year and his presence in the middle is felt every gameday. RoMac may lack a little speed but he's one of their best run defenders and without him, it's noticed. Pairing him and Sean Lee together again is going to be great for the defense and when they are on, it's hard to argue them as one of the best tandems in the league.
Me: I kind of have a split opinion here between McClain and Thonton. Between the two of them, I think the middle of the defensive front is very solid.
3. The Cowboys seemed to have a lot of offers turned down this year. Which one do you wish would have come to Dallas and why?
Dawn Macelli: I am going to cop out on this one just a bit. It is not one player that got away, but a position. There is no denying that Dallas has a need at corner, and I would have like to have seen a deal with one of the cornerbacks that they brought in. The deal with Patrick Robinson falling through was something of a kick in the teeth, but if his heart is set on playing somewhere else then so be it.
Danny Phantom: Adrian Clayborn. He has the skills to make an immediate impact on the line and the price was perfect. That signing would have shored up the defensive line enough to be more serviceable while we fish for stronger resources through the draft.
OCC: Frankly, I have no particular feelings about any of them. Most were interchangeable bodies brought on to provide depth. If any of them had signed, cool. If not, player acquisition is year-long process and we can stiill get depth later in the year.
Jim Scott: I think Weddle is the best player that left Dallas without a deal.
Micheal Sisemore: I don't think that they really missed out on much of anything but I'll go with Patrick Robinson. I do think he would have been an upgrade over Brandon Carr but more or less he would just be another quality cornerback to have, This secondary has shown that they have some issues staying healthy and the hope is that Orlando Scandrick returns to form. However, Robinson could have been a solid guy to have with the versatility to play inside and out.
Me: I go with Robinson as well. I think he was part of a bigger plan for dealing with Brandon Carr, specifically reducing his cap hit. I don't think the team is done here, but the options are now much more limited.
4. As people who watch the team closely, how do you rate free agency for the Cowboys so far? To keep it simple, would you call it good, so-so, or bad?
Dawn Macelli: The free agency period was better than most fans would grade it. I like that they Cowboys took care of their own first. Even the Claiborne re-signing does not disappoint me. For what they are paying him this time around, Dallas got a fair arrangement. As I said before, I am a fan of the Thornton deal. Gone are the days when Jerry would break the bank for a flashy signing. The Cowboys are now filling roles with players who can make the team a little better. It is a sound philosophy in my opinion. It will not generate excitement, but signing guys who do has left us without an opportunity to gloat for a long time. I prefer the guys who can come in without missing a beat and get the job done with little fanfare.
Danny Phantom: Good. I like the players and like the structures of the contracts. I have bought in 100% on this way of operating through free agency.
OCC: I'm not going to sugarcoat this, I'm disappointed. I understand what the Cowboys are doing in free agency. I understand why they are doing it. I even approve of what they are doing. But I'm still disappointed. When you're buying a big-name free agent, you're also buying hope, excitement, anticipation. I understand that in most cases, free agents can't live up those expectations, which is why so many end up as busts. But in the spring and summer of 2016, I could have used a little more hope, excitement, and anticipation.
Jim Scott: Good. they didn't overspend and I think Thornton and Morris are significant pickups for not much money. The players they brought back all make sense and none of them are outrageously expensive. I do question giving Dunbar that much when he seems to last about 25 touches a season, but there's no question he was a dynamic player for the three or four games he played last year.
Michael Sisemore: It's good that they didn't get pulled into the spending spree that was the first two days, but they still disappointed in many ways. They have a really big hole on the defensive line and it's going to now take a ton of numbers to even try and rectify that. I don't believe that their pass rush is going to be much better or better at all than what it has been. I like their value in drafting players, but they may value it too much. Those nine picks they have are not covering everything they need. They better hope that their offense returns to 2014 form because they will need to grind teams away again. The defense is suspect and will continue to be.
Me: I believe in the approach the team has taken with free agency. In looking at what was available, I don't think there were any silver bullets the way they thought Greg Hardy was going to be for the pass rush. I am generally pleased with how things have gone, but we will find out on the field how it really works.
Not a consensus view by any means. How do you feel about it all? Let us know in the comments.